Hustle Mode

A young woman collects recyclable bottles from the streets of New York City to stay afloat, as she struggles to wrangle her 2-year-old daughter and 90-year-old dog.

  • Jeff Liu
    After Life; Zucchini
  • Jeff Liu
  • Javier Gonzalez
    Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie; Funny Pages; Tesla
  • Tanya Bindra
    Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie; 2nd Chance
  • Jennifer 8. Lee
    Our Son; Chasing Coral; The Harvard Computers; The Price
  • Peter Hess Friedland
    His Three Daughters; The Price
  • Celia Kaleialoha Kenney
    The Descendants
  • Clara Barnstone
    Key Cast
  • Jonathan Daniel Brown
    Key Cast
    The Sweet East; Project X; Kid Cannabis
  • Mitchell Wenig
    Key Cast
    Uncut Gems; Funny Pages
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Comedy, Drama
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 30, 2023
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jeff Liu

Jeff Liu is a director based in New York City. He recently wrapped production on his comedy-drama short film, HUSTLE MODE, produced by Emmy-winning producer Javier Gonzalez (FUNNY PAGES, STILL: A MICHAEL J. FOX MOVIE) and Jennifer 8. Lee (OUR SON, CHASING CORAL).

His first documentary short, AFTER LIFE, premiered at the 2021 Independent Film Festival Boston alongside Questlove's Oscar-winning documentary SUMMER OF SOUL. He also produced the feature film ZUCCHINI, directed by Miles Emanuel (FUNNY PAGES) and executive-produced by Javier Gonzalez.

Jeff attended Harvard College, where he studied under acclaimed filmmakers Musa Syeed (MENASHE), Robb Moss (THE SAME RIVER TWICE), and Anocha Suwichakornpong (BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK).

He is in development on a feature-length adaptation of HUSTLE MODE.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

In May of 1992, my parents immigrated from China to New York with just pennies in their pockets. Hustling from day to night, one of their first jobs was collecting bottles and cans from recycling bins, refunding them at the supermarket for five cents apiece. On the streets, they call it “canning.”

When I was a kid, my parents would tell me all these absurd stories of their time canning, running into all sorts of characters. Every night, these little anecdotes — crazier, more intense, funnier than you could ever imagine — cemented themselves as myths to me — fables, fairy tales from another world. Collecting literal garbage in exchange for a dream... It’s all so capitalistic, so perversely romantic, so wholeheartedly... American.

HUSTLE MODE tells the story of Lexy, a young canner on the streets of New York City. She’s everything to me — loosely inspired by who my parents were, partly who I am, partly who I dream to be. For the role, I turned to my dear friend, Clara Barnstone. Although she may not look quite like either Mom or Dad, she embodies their spirit wholeheartedly. Sure, my parents may be immigrants, but they were never fighting to be American — they were Americans the minute they stepped foot in this country. Their existence, their occupation, their struggles and feelings, were no more alien than yours or mine — they were, and still are, the most elemental and universal aspects of life. Like Lexy, they were just fighting for themselves.

Lexy is my love letter to New York. I realized that New York is made up of millions of Lexys. These are real people, all around us — quietly making their way, unnoticed by most, carving their own little dents in the corners of society. They don’t ask for sympathy or pity — they earn your empathy through pride and sheer will. No matter how hard they’re knocked down, they always get back up. No matter the adversity they face, they always power through it — sometimes stubbornly so. They are the backbone of this city — they give it its character, its soul.

So here's to legendary New Yorkers, and New York legends...